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MTA Director Heinicke Proposes Sponsorship of Street, Cable Cars

6:04 PM PDT on June 2, 2009

muni_bus_wrap.jpgA Muni bus wrapped in a Starbucks ad. The "sponsorships" of cable and street cars would be "unobtrusive." Flickr photo: etthekid

MTA Director Malcolm Heinicke must have heard the recent calls from advocates like Tom Radulovich for the MTA Board to follow the charter and "diligently" seek out new sources of revenue, but his latest idea is raising quite a few eyebrows. At today's meeting, Heinicke, fresh from a trip to Chicago where he saw how some streets have honorary names, said he would like the MTA to explore offering "unobtrusive" corporate or individual sponsorships of street and cable cars. 

"For example, with the F line...the maintenance costs are significant. Those are beautiful vehicles. I mean, we have a brochure of people lining up to take their photos. Tourists love to ride on them. You can imagine that a good San Francisco company or a good citizen might be willing to sort of adopt that car in exchange for some recognition," Heinicke explained to reporters afterward, adding that the same concept could also be applied to some streets. 

But isn't it moving toward privatization? "No," said Heinicke, responding to the question from the Chronicle's Rachel Gordon. "It's moving much closer to sponsorship or advertising than it is to privatization. The Adopt-a-Highway program administered by the CHP, I don't think anyone would suggest that's privitization of the highways. That's good citizens coming foward."

MTA Chief Nat Ford said his staff would look into it.

A public commenter pointed out cable cars already have honorary plaques on them, and Heinicke said staff would need to check with the cable car division "to make sure we're not running over any exisiting agreements."

Would something like this really work in these tough economic times, considering ad revenue is down? "We'll find out," said Heinicke.

What do you think? Is it time to solicit sponsorships for street and cable cars? Or have we had enough corporate ads littering our transit system?

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